Court-martial begins for Virginia Beach-based Navy SEAL accused of raping fellow Sailor

NORFOLK, Va. - A general court-martial started Tuesday morning for a Virginia Beach-based Navy SEAL accused of raping a fellow Sailor.

Chief Special Warfare Operator Stephen Varanko III has been charged with kidnapping, rape, sexual assault, aggravated assault, battery, making a false official statement and violation of a general regulation in violation of Articles 134, 128, 120, 107 and 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Varanko is assigned to Special Reconnaissance Team Two at Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story in Virginia Beach.

The charges stem from an incident on February 26, 2015 in Shepherdsville, Kentucky.

Varanko was there on a training mission with the woman, who is also enlisted in the Navy.

He had worked with her for several years and the two had been in an on and off relationship despite Veranko being engaged to another woman.

The policy of WTKR News 3 is to not identify victims of alleged sexual assault.

The woman testified in a military courtroom Tuesday she had consensual sex with Veranko on the first night of the trip, but the alleged incident happened several nights later.

A group, including Veranko and the woman, had gone to dinner at a Mexican restaurant and then to a strip club.

On the way home from the club, Veranko asked to use her phone for navigation since the battery on his was dead.

It was while using the phone that prosecutors say Veranko saw a text message sent to the woman by another man that enraged him and lead to the alleged assault and rape inside Veranko's hotel room.

Redacted charge sheets for Varanko provided to News 3 by the Navy state say that the victim was threatened and placed "in fear that she would be subjected to grievous bodily harm and kidnapping."

In their opening argument, Veranko's military defense attorneys said this is "a case of revenge," saying the woman couldn't get over Veranko's refusal to leave his now wife for her.

The defense also played a recorded video the woman had sent Veranko two weeks after the alleged incident in Kentucky where she professed her love to him on handwritten pieces of paper, including one that said "I want to be your one and only forever."

The prosecution though honed in on text messages exchanged between the two and a handwritten letter Veranko sent the woman saying he was embarrassed and ashamed, writing "I will die regretting that night."

Varanko, who is from Maryland, enlisted in the Navy in November 2006 and remains on active-duty status in the Navy.

He has not been confined to the Navy brig while awaiting court-martial.

Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic is the convening authority for the case, which is scheduled to last four days at Naval Station Norfolk.